From £14,2206

Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

The Chevrolet Cruze is a huge improvement over its Lacetti predecessor in this area, and while it’s easy to say that it needed to be, this cabin now compares well with class standards for both value-brand and mainstream models.

Its twin cockpit theme, in which the dashboard is bisected by a centre console to wrap around driver and passenger, is said to be inspired by the interior of the original 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, of which this sculptural theme was indeed a feature.

The Cruze has a cheap gearknob; too big, hard to hold and it looks low-rent. Why do so many car makers get such an important control wrong?

The driving environment is comfortable and, in the main, it doesn’t look or feel cheap. This isn’t a cockpit to sit back and admire, but it’s a perfectly adequate, functional and pleasant place. Mid-spec LT models come with an interesting mix of materials: leather on the steering wheel and gearlever, high-gloss black and aluminium-look plastics on the centre console and a particularly tactile and attractive upholstered finish on the dashboard.

There are a few hard, cheap-feeling fittings, such as the grab handles and glovebox plastics, but the switchgear feels hardy.

Space is plentiful up front, but the saloon model's plunging, coupé-apeing roofline impinges upon second-row headroom, and its notchback rear end limits your cargo carrying options. Better is the hatchback, with a generously commodious cabin – not the biggest in the class, but above average on passenger space – and a large boot. A Skoda Octavia would still shade it on sheer usefulness, but little else in the class is more practical.

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Luggage capacity in the hatchback has been reduced by 37 litres to 413 litres compared with the saloon, but the absence of a bulkhead allows 883 litres to be stowed with the seats folded down. The Vauxhall Astra offers 75 litres less boot space but better rear passenger accommodation. For those whom space is the primary concern, the Cruze estate offers 500 litres with the seats down and 1478 litres with them folded, which is broadly competitive with its rivals.

Cabin stowage space is excellent, with four door bins, a big glovebox, cup and bottle holders, a lined dash-top box and a central storage cubby, which all help to make this a practical car to live with.

A small but pleasing detail is the provision of proper iPod sockets inside the centre cubby, complete with a channel under the lid to accommodate the cable. A shame, then, that the same level of thought hasn’t been applied to the sat-nav’s control logic, which is frustratingly opaque in some respects and compounded by a set of display colours that sometimes makes the location arrow hard to read.